The L’Aventure Languedoc campaign is bringing France’s top-tier wines to participating locations throughout Washington through mid-July. In addition to refreshing whites, rosés, and sparklers, Languedoc – France’s largest wine producing region –offers unique red blends sure to impress your next date or dinner host. Here’s what you need to know.
First dates are difficult on many fronts, including what to talk about, what to wear, and what to order. But one thing that shouldn’t be difficult is finding the perfect bottle of wine to impress whoever you’re trying to woo. Languedoc’s red blends are bold, savory, and packed with herbal and dark fruit flavors, making them the perfect partner for a variety of meat dishes, as well as hearty vegetables like eggplants, Portobello mushrooms, or anything off the grill. Even better, Languedoc wines are distinguished by their strong quality to price ratio, so you’ll save money without sacrificing taste.
Located in Southern France, Languedoc is a warm, sunny and expansive wine region that stretches across 560,000 acres along the Mediterranean coastline. Home to several climate and soil types, Languedoc produces a wide variety of exceptional wines, but the majority of wines produced in the region are reds.
Made from blends of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan grapes, these wines show flavors of ripe red and black fruits along with hints of ‘garrigue,’ a collection of herbs including rosemary, thyme, and lavender. The region’s Mediterranean climate allows for the grapes to ripen consistently from year to year, so Languedoc’s wines are always balanced and lush.
Though similar to wines from the nearby Rhone region, two factors give Languedoc reds their unique profiles. The first is the area’s terrior, a term that encompasses all of the environmental and cultural influences that impact growing grapes and making wine. The terrior of Languedoc and all of its sub-regions demonstrates a greater influence from the Mediterranean than the terrior of the Rhone valley. The presence of the Carignan grape variety is the second factor that makes reds from this region unique. Native to Languedoc, Carignan grapes give these reds a signature character you won’t find anywhere else.
While these unique characteristics are impressive, the quality of Languedoc reds is what makes them so special. France classifies wine using the AOC / AOP system, which first started in 1937. This system has guidelines that apply to nearly every aspect of wine production, including which grape varieties can be used, aging requirements, what the minimum alcohol level can be, and even vineyard planting density protocols. The bottles labeled AOC / AOP represent the highest quality of wine.
Within this larger system, Languedoc has slated its own wines into tiers of distinction. Most are Grands Vins du Languedoc, but six appellations are classified as Crus du Languedoc, representing the highest quality of wine from the region. These AOP wines come from more concentrated areas and are often produced in limited quantities, making them the very top wines that Languedoc has to offer.
Even though the Crus de Languedoc wines are the nicest the region has to offer – and are the best for impressing a date – the wines can generally be found for around $25. Here are a few to look out for on the menu or at the store.
- Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup Tour de Pierres AOP Pic Saint Loup: The Pic Saint Loup appellation is closer to the Rhone valley than the rest of the Languedoc region, so these wines showcase Syrah and Grenache grapes in their blends. This particular bottle really translates the herbal ‘garrigue’ very clearly, making it food friendly. Pair this wine with any roasted meat, but especially pork.
- Chateau Saint-Eulalie La Cantilène AOP Minervois la Livinière: This wine is from one of the Crus de Languedoc appellations, the best of the best. It’s a silky smooth blend featuring Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, the grape variety native to Languedoc. This is the ultimate pairing partner for the traditional Cassoulet dish from the region, but also goes nicely with a great rack of ribs.
- Laurent Miquel Bardou AOP Saint Chinian: This warm, toasty Saint Chinian shows more oak aging than some other Languedoc wines and pairs incredibly well with aged steak, creamy potatoes, and spinach.
- Castelmaure Col des Vents AOP Corbières: The Corbières appellation uses more Carignan in its wines than other areas of the Languedoc region. This is a great light-bodied and fruity wine, perfect for drinking with burgers and other items from the grill.
L’Aventure Languedoc runs through mid July, so be sure to take advantage of these date-worthy reds while you can! For more information on the wine, region, and L’Aventure Languedoc promotion, visit http://languedocadventure.com/.